Too often when patients check into a hospital in order to get better, they unfortunately end up worse off. Many such cases are due to infections contracted from the hospital environment. And with a rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria, hospital-acquired infections are even more worrisome.
Children and babies, particularly those that are malnourished or living with HIV, are at higher risk for hospital-acquired infections. Common infections include pneumonia, bloodstream and urinary tract infections, all of which can be life-threatening to a child or individual with a weakened immune system.
The scope of the problem
In the US and Europe, the percentage rate of hospital-acquired infections is 4-5% for children. In South America, the percentage is slightly higher at up to 6%. While there are no definitive estimates, these infections are also a significant problem in African countries.
In South Africa, just under a quarter of children admitted to Tygerberg Children’s Hospital in a one-year duration acquired infections while hospitalised. This caused prolonged hospital stays, which contributed to overcrowding, and made additional courses of antibiotics necessary. The cost of these preventable infections was over R60 million for the year.
Unfortunately, comprehensive statistics for the rate of hospital-acquired infections in South Africa are unavailable due to a lack of active monitoring and reporting of cases by the current healthcare system.
The threat of super-bugs
Since 2004, the threat of super-bugs, highly drug-resistant bacteria, has been growing in South African hospitals. Some estimates put a patient’s risk of hospital-acquired infections in state hospitals at one in five. Many of these infections are caused by super-bugs.
A super-bug originally identified in the US has also made its way to South Africa. Known as a “nightmare bacteria”, CRE (Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae) is an antibiotic-resistant super-bug that can kill up to half of patients who get bloodstream infections.
In 2012, 64 patients were infected with CRE while in hospital and by 2016, 587 cases were documented. This figure is expected to increase due to the exponential spread of the bacteria. Our strongest known antibiotics have little effect on CRE, leaving patients with potentially untreatable infections.
Factors that contribute to high infection rates
Hospital-acquired infections, sometimes referred to as HIAs, are caused by viruses, bacteria and even fungi. The most commonly infected areas are the urinary tract, the respiratory system, blood and any wounds the patient might have, including surgical ones.
The following factors can increase the risk of hospital-acquired infections:
- Certain invasive medical procedures such as catheters, intubation and IVs
- Surgical patients can be at risk of sepsis at their wound site
- Burn patients are likewise at a higher risk of infection
- Poor hospital organisation such as staff shortages, failure to follow health and safety regulations and adequate equipment sterilization
- Extended hospital stays
- Children and babies are at a higher risk, as are the elderly
- People with compromised immune systems, such as HIV patients, are also at a higher risk of infection
Medical malpractice claims for hospital-acquired infections
If a doctor or hospital did not take reasonable measures to ensure you or a loved one did not contract an infection while in hospital, you may have grounds for a case of medical negligence or malpractice.
Poor hospital management, clerical errors, improperly performed medical procedures, lack of health and safety adherence and poor hygiene or sterilisation can all contribute to a patient contracting an otherwise preventable infection while hospitalised.
Medical malpractice claims with DSC Attorneys
At DSC Attorneys, our attorneys and medico-legal team have extensive experience in handling medical malpractice claims related to hospital-acquired infections.
We can assess your claim, organise necessary medical examinations, help prepare supporting evidence and represent you in legal proceedings, giving you the best chance of receiving the compensation you deserve. We also work on a no win, no fee basis.
Contact us for more information or to discuss your medical malpractice claim.